|FIBA World Ranking||No. 11|
|How qualified||2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women|
|Key veterans||Guards Teresa Gabrielle and Kim Smith|
|Rising star||Courtnay Pilypaitis (Vermont)|
|Olympic medals||None (previous Olympic appearances in Sydney 2000, Atlanta 1996, Los Angeles 1984 and Montreal 1976)|
|World Championship medals||None (appearances in 2010, 2006, 1994, 1990, 1983, 1975, 1971)|
|Preliminary round group||Group B|
With a win in the final game of this month's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women, the Canadians return to the Olympic field for the first time in 12 years. So even though Canada appears to be a team on the rise, the question is whether the North Americans have yet reached the level where they can expect to make it out of the preliminary rounds and into the quarterfinals, with a realistic chance of contending for a medal.
The answer for now, and against this field, is no.
The Canadian roster has capitalized on the NCAA experience and training by most of the squad but nonetheless, while they are a strong defensive team and play with great heart and will to win, at times they struggle to put points on the scoreboard. Although longtime national team veterans Kim Smith (formerly with the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs) and Teresa Gabrielle are the heart and soul of the team and must perform well for the Canadians, the key to exceeding expectations is 23-year-old Courtnay Pilypaitis, who emerged as the team's scoring leader at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Pilypaitis, who starred at Vermont, fillled the void when Smith found herself in a scoring slump, and she will have to match that performance in London, even if Smith is back in form.
That said, Canada is a team with no megastar, depending heavily on team play. Even Pilypaitis managed just 12.6 ppg at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and no other Canadian player averaged double figures.
Moreover, while the Canadians boast a 10-6 record in its preparatory games in the run-up to the Olympics, they have had very little success against the teams they will need to beat if they are to get through to the quarterfinals. Canada battled its way to a 2-1 record in an exhibition series against China, but the Chinese are in Group A, while Canada finds itself in Group B where they will have to get past host Great Britain -- an achievable goal, but by no means a certainty, given the 1-1 split with the British in exhibition play last month when the Canadians won one game (63-50) and lost the other (70-57).
Canada would also have to outperform at least one of the other teams in Group B -- Australia, Brazil, France or Russia -- and though that is not impossible, it's far from likely. The best bet would be a win over France, a team to which the Canadians have lost twice in recent international competition, falling 56-47, just two weeks ago at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, in a game in which the Canadian forward Tamara Tatham "led" the team with only seven points. In 2010, they lost by two, 49-47, on a buzzer-beater at the 2010 Women's World Championships, so there is hope of an upset.
On the other hand, the Canadians lost badly to Brazil, the ultimate champion of the 2011 FIBA Americas Tournament, 56-39, in preliminary-round play, and suffered a 72-47 rout by Australia the last time they met, at the 2010 World Championships.
Bottom line: It's good to see the Canadians back in the field with the world's elite women's basketball teams, but they'll like be chalking this Olympic campaign up to experience.
- London 2012: Angola -- Just happy to be there
- London 2012: Brazil -- With Castro Marques gone, so are Brazil's medal hopes
- London 2012: China -- It's been a struggle since Beijing
- London 2012: Croatia -- Here's the upset special
- London 2012: Czech Republic -- Experience plus size could equal a medal
- London 2012: France -- It's now or never for Les Bleus
- London 2012: Great Britain -- Hosts hoping for a win
- London 2012: Russia -- As usual, an enigma
- 2012 London: Turkey -- Plenty of size, but shooters are the key
- London 2012: The United States -- Only gold will satisfy